Free and Fun. These are high priorities for parents searching for places their kids can burn off that neverending energy. What meets these qualifications better than your local public park? Thankfully, the Camp Pendleton area is home to many excellent outdoor play spaces. With great weather practically year-round, you’ll be able to visit them all. We checked out tons of different playgrounds and parks, and are ready to share our absolute favorites. Pack a picnic and get ready to explore the great outdoors as you take in the sights at these 5 super-fun Camp Pendleton Parks.
5 Super Fun Camp Pendleton Parks
This is one of the most interesting, multi-faceted parks around. Just steps away from the ocean, and five minutes from the Main Gate, this place is a hidden gem popular with local parents and committed beach bums. You could easily spend the whole day here—as long you’re not rushing home for a midday nap.
Start off on the far north side of the park, where you’ll see a large creek bordered by large craggy rocks. There are usually lots of critters to spot here, including squirrels, ducks, and tons of birds. Kids love to climb on the boulders while they checking out the wildlife. Walk down the path that runs along the creek to get an even better view of this ecosystem.
When you’ve taken in as much nature as you can handle, circle back across the parking lot to grab a delicious coffee at Buccaneer Café. You’re probably ready for some caffeine by now anyhow. Properly reinforced, head over to the playground. Here you’ll find a pleasantly unique assortment of playground elements for kiddos of all ages.
If the coffee starts kicking in and you’re feeling up to it, cross the street to check out the beach. This particular access point is popular with surfers so beware of strong waves. Another huge plus of this park: a free good-sized parking lot with an ocean view.
This absolutely beautiful park in San Clemente, just off the North end of Camp P, contains just about every popular playground element you can think of. A massive sand area, slides, swings, a giant castle-shaped play gym, and a pirate ship come together to make one of the coolest public playgrounds around.
There is also an elevated faux “river” for the kids to splash in and a sound garden just behind that. The latter containing several different musical elements for young people to play with. We love that the entire massive play area is fenced in so that you can feel a bit better about letting the kids explore freely.
Del Mar Beach Playground
There’s something so magical about living right on the coast. The daily doses of palm trees and view of an ocean-meets-sky horizon is completely restorative, making the Camp Pendleton duty station pretty special indeed. Since military family life can be stressful, make sure you escape to the shore often.
Del Mar beach—located on right on base—boasts an excellent playground on its north end. It’s a nice sized play structure, but the real draw here is going to be its location. Put down a beach blanket, throw on some shades, and enjoy your time on one of the best private beaches in all of SoCal.
The kids will stay entertained while you soak up the sun. Bring a sand toy collection to keep them engaged even longer. If your crew still has energy afterward, stroll down to the water for some splashing and swimming. By then, if you’ve worked up an appetite, check out Ramones, the burrito shop a few steps down (we love the nachos!).
Lake O’Neil Park
In a busy place like Northern San Diego County, there isn’t a ton of unspoiled nature. However, one place on Camp Pendleton invites you to take in lots of peaceful outdoor scenery. Lake O’Neil is a recreational area located in the center of the base. As you approach, you’ll notice the scenery shift dramatically. For one, there are actual trees, which you won’t find in much of this region.
Right along the north side of the lake, just by the camping area, you’ll come across a gated playground covered by solar shades. Many of its play elements are rather unique and whimsical in nature. We thoroughly appreciate that the area is completely fenced, making it a bit easier for parents of little ones testing their independence. Since it’s shaded, you get some lovely relief from the sun. Make a day of this adventure by visiting on a day that the NMCRS Thrift Shop is open. It’s just down the road.
Oceanside Pier Playground
Lastly, if you’re ready to take in some authentic Oceanside flavor, hop over to the Oceanside Pier Playground. It’s only five minutes from the Main Gate entrance and an ideal spot to take in stunning ocean views. You’ll be able to play right on the beach, sand and all!
It’s a pretty comprehensive playground with all the good stuff, but depending upon the season, you may want to get there early. This can be a pretty popular tourist spot, especially in the summer months. Parking can also be a bit of a challenge, but you can usually find a spot in the lot just across the street, even in the busy season. To add to the fun, check out Rudy’s diner at the end of the pier for lunch.
Camp Pendleton Parks Offer Something for Everyone
We love having a handy list of things to do with your kids that they’ll love and don’t cost a thing. This little list was made just for that purpose. Whether you are a newcomer to Camp Pendleton or a longtime resident, we hope that we’ve been able to expose you to new places for your family to enjoy.
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Photo Credits: Shayna Mabee